Investigating practitioner organization communication with landowners about human-beaver coexistence
June 2023 - June 2025
- Oregon Conservation and Recreation Fund
Beavers are landscape engineers. They create habitat for other species, and change the landscape in ways that often help buffer ecosystems and people from the damaging effects of climate change, including drought, flood, and wildfire risks. In part because of these benefits, there is a movement to restore beaver and beaver-modified habitat on the landscape in Oregon. However, beavers can also be controversial because of the damage they can cause to human structures and crops. As such, beavers are a useful case study for how to equitably engage Oregonians in wildlife habitat restoration efforts while simultaneously mitigating human-wildlife conflict and promoting coexistence. In situations like these, social science can support engagement programs that are a) tailored to key audiences’ needs, b) coordinated across organizations and agencies, and c) targeted at the specific moment when action is taken. However, this kind of participatory evidence-based approach to behavioral design has not yet been applied to human-beaver coexistence in Oregon. We propose to answer the question: How can private landowners be supported to take coexistence actions that are mutually beneficial for their needs and beaver populations in Oregon? We will assemble a community of practice comprising groups that work with private landowners on two dimensions of coexistence in Oregon: human-beaver conflict management and beaver-modified habitat restoration. Together, we will identify a) best practices for landowner engagement (both tried and true strategies and creative new approaches), b) pinch points limiting landowner engagement, and c) opportunities to coordinate future outreach and engagement campaigns. We will use social science methods to execute this project, combining baseline and follow-up interviews, facilitated workshops, and pre-post social network analysis. Results and lessons learned from this project will be shared with ODFW, the community of practice, other stakeholders and rightsholders, and the broader conservation science community to catalyze wider discussion and adoption of human-beaver coexistence strategies, and guide strategic implementation of ODFW’s Beaver Habitat Action Plan in the future.